megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)

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megpie71: Kerr Avon quote: Don't philosophise at me you electronic moron; answer the question (don't philosophise)
Monday, November 3rd, 2014 06:28 am
Game Genre: Hidden Object
Story Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk/Time Travel
Developers: Lazy Turtle Games
Cost: 4 WildCoins to rent; 20 WildCoins to buy

Game Play: This one varied wildly between "oh good grief, I should have put my brain in a bucket before starting" and "oh good grief, just give me a useful hint, drat you!".

I found I consistently needed hints in hidden object scenes. I also found I was consistently needing hints in the main game itself, and the game hints are ... less than helpful. I certainly didn't find them very useful in most cases.

The game itself is pretty straightforward, and if you know the conventions of the hidden object genre, it's all pretty self-explanatory. There are a limited number of scenes in each "area", so to speak, and you can't leave an area until you've completed its objective. You can't complete the objective without clearing the area in each of the scenes you're looking at, and the in-game "map" (you can select the scenes from a maximum of about five in a rotating wheel) is very easy to master, and shows clearly which areas you've cleared.

The non-hidden object puzzles are a nice mixed bunch, including one "Tower of Hanoi" and a few interesting "match three" style puzzles.

Plot/Tropes: Simple almost to the point of absence, the storyline can be summarised as "complete tasks at various improbable points throughout fictional history in order to obtain clues regarding the location of your eccentric inventor grandfather".

I think my biggest "grr" about it is the description on the Wild Tangent site lists it as being "historical". The "history" in this story is fictionalised and bland to the point of ridicule - about the only genuinely historical figures you meet are Christopher Columbus (who is depicted as being greedy for gold) and Pharaoh Amenhotep (building a pyramid). You meet both Perseus and Theseus out of Greek myth, a stereotypical Mayan shaman wanting you to conceal their secret knowledge and become The One, a stereotypical Viking raider, Robin Hood and King Arthur, D'Artagnan of the Three Musketeers and the Compte de Monte Cristo, not to mention one of Jules Verne's characters and a stereotypical caveman. Each of these "historical" interludes is shallower than the average puddle, and anyone with any historical knowledge whatsoever will tend to cringe rather thoroughly.

Effects: Not much by way of animation (what there is tends to be paper doll style) and no voice acting (all text based). I'm willing to give them a pass on this because they clearly knew their limits and didn't try to go much beyond them. The majority of the animation budget is spent on the front "attract mode" screen.

Overall: Four out of ten for game play (I would have marked it higher, but the wildly inconsistent difficulty told against it); two out of ten for storyline (sorry guys, I'm a history buff and anachronisms make me itch), and six out of ten for effects (because they knew their limits and stuck within them). I'd suggest this one for kids more than adults - it certainly isn't aimed at adult plot level. If you have some nine-year-olds you want to keep busy on a wet Sunday afternoon, this game might be fun for them.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (frustration)
Friday, October 31st, 2014 12:43 pm
Producers/Creators: Brave Giant Studio
Cost: 4 WildCoins per play
Game Genre: Hidden Object/Puzzle
Plot Genre: Fairytale/Fantasy

Game Play: The hidden object genre tends toward two extremes - either fiendishly difficult, or pathetically straightforward. This game is the latter. The hidden objects aren't particularly well hidden, the puzzles are largely solvable through brute force and ignorance (really guys, one sequence-themed puzzle per game is plenty - having one after another after another really takes the gilt off the gingerbread), and the collectable elements are less than apparent.

I should explain. The hidden object scenes are generally pretty simple to find everything (to the point where I frequently didn't need to use the hint at all, and I'd pretty much given up on this game and put my brain in a bucket after seeing the opening animation). The puzzle mini-games tend toward toward 6-component "do things in the correct sequence" types, which means you need a maximum of 15 attempts to solve things (at 1 attempt per second, this means you're finishing most of the puzzles before your 30 second wait time for skipping them is completed). About the only challenging part is the "collectables" mini-game, where you have to collect four different types of object (one for each zone of the game, not that anything really clarifies this for you) in order to furnish a "throne room" area.

Plot and Tropes: The player character is a queen who has married her handsome prince and is just about to get her little baby daughter blessed by the court wizard. There's an evil wizard, a steampunk-styled dragon, a kraken and a gryphon to battle. This is a fairy-tale themed fantasy so generic it's ridiculous.

It also has one of my LEAST favourite game plot tropes - the "you have to hurry" plot, with no actual time limitation. Seriously, designers, if your plot is telling me to rush to save the baby or the world or whatever, you need to actually find a way of injecting this urgency into the game play. Telling me "X will happen if you don't hurry" when I know full well I could walk away from the game (while leaving it running on my system) for an hour or two, or even a week, and nothing will advance until I get back... well, it loses all impact. I know I'm going to be able to complete the challenge in time, so having the villain repeatedly tell me I won't isn't really cutting it as a threat, or even a realistic plot device. Why not go with "you'll never stop my fiendish plan" instead? At least that has the advantage of being plot relevant.

Aside from that the plot is so linear you can clearly see the end from the beginning, and there aren't even any interesting twists or bends along the way. The resolution of the main plot is vastly unsatisfying, and really did not enthuse me to play the "bonus" chapter (during which you presumably work to resolve the biggest dangling plot thread).

Effects: Imagine the cheapest paper doll animation you've ever seen. This is the standard this game uses. Very pretty pictures from magazines, cut out and moved in rather jerky stop-motion fashion. To be honest, if you're going to use such good visuals and such poor animation, I'd prefer if the animation wasn't going to be played "straight", as this was.

There's voice overs which die out about a quarter of the way through the game, and they're never in synch with the actual mouth movements (which may have been an English-language localisation issue, but is still rather annoying to view). The maps are primitive, but then, they aren't really needed from one scene to the next.

The voice acting is okay, but it loses a lot from the poor quality of the animation. Again, if you're going to have very poor animation, the least that could be done with it is making it into a feature rather than a bug - put a lampshade on it, play around with the whole business.

Overall: I gave this game 2/10 for game play, 1/10 for plot, and 1/10 for effects. Very poor, positively enjoyed deleting it off my system.
megpie71: Slave computer, captioned "My most humble apologies, master" (computer troubles)
Monday, October 27th, 2014 08:28 am
Game Genre: Hidden Object
Plot Genre: Fantasy
Producers/Creators: Wild Tangent Games, Little Gaming Company
Cost: 4 WildCoins to play (68c Australian based on 50 WildCoins for $8.50)

Gameplay: The "hidden object" genre of games tends toward two extremes of gameplay. On the one hand, there's the games where you're going to be led by the nose from plot point to plot point, with very clear instructions all along the way. On the other hand, there's the games where "what should I do next" is as obscure as all get-out, and where the gamer spends a lot of time clicking wildly on just about anything in frame in the optimistic hope of finding out what they should be doing now. "Mysteries and Nightmares: Morgiana" fits itself extremely firmly into the latter category.

You're given a couple of general hints on whether there's something you need to be doing in a particular scene in the gargoyles which support either side of your inventory tray - if their eyes are glowing, there's something you can do here. Trust me, you will NEED those gargoyle hints, because the actual "hint" hint itself is about as vague as a political promise from a candidate who is seeking broad-base support from a rather apathetic electorate[1]. The "map" function also proves helpful here - learn to love the map, you're going to be referring to it a lot.

Why are you going to be referring to the map a lot? Well, unlike other games of this type, if you're in a room where you can't do anything at the moment, clicking on the hint will merely get you the information either that you can't do anything at present, or you've completed all the tasks in that room. Given you get that information from the gargoyles, this is no help whatsoever (other games of this type will at least let the hint button point you backwards out of the room). On the map, however, you are able to discover that a room you entered about five, ten, or fifteen pages back has something you can complete (and it allows you to jump directly to that room, rather than walking there the long way) which will, hopefully, trigger other options elsewhere. Or at least let you complete a hidden object puzzle to find the mcguffin which will allow you to move on to the next plot point.

Your tasks and notes are kept in the notebook, accessible through clicking on your heroine's portrait in the upper left corner of the screen - the number below the portrait is the number of outstanding tasks you have waiting to be completed. As per genre rules, the resolution of one or more of these tasks is tied up together. Unlike other examples of this genre, you aren't able to access your previously completed tasks, or your notes on previous sections of the plot.

In the actual hidden object sections, there's a pleasing lack of the "disguise things as other things" visual trope which tends to bedevil some examples of the genre[2] - instead all the player has to contend with is the challenge of knowing what to look for. For example, when the list of objects says "bow", do they mean "bow as in Hawkeye or Green Arrow's weapon-of-choice (longbow)" or do they mean "bow as in loopy knot (bow tie/ribbon bow)"? This is a pretty common thing in the genre, and is (for me) the cause of at least some swearing when, after spending ages chasing down everything else on the list, I eventually click on a hint and get taken to something I've been looking right at, but know by a different name. This is basically the developers exploiting a bug (or possibly a feature) of the English language, and it's pretty genre-typical.

Plot and Tropes: Okay, we have an amnesiac heroine who has been captured from their home and dumped down in a decrepit castle and has to figure out who she is, what she's supposed to do, and how to get home. There are magical talking animals (well, one talking mouse), magical wands, and whole heaps of creepy statues, skeletons, and torn tapestries all over the place. The furniture doesn't talk, fortunately.

Essentially, it's a story which is about sisterhood and rivalry. The female characters are so generic they just about come plain wrapped (one dark haired, red-eyed, pale-skinned evil princess who wears dark red; one blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned good ditto, wearing pink), there's only one masculine speaking role (the aforementioned talking mouse) and the resolution of this plot is rather hackneyed and hasty - it's as though the writers basically got told "we need a four hour storyline - no more, no less" and when they reached the four hour mark, it got chopped off short. It's a pity, in some ways, because there were some interesting plot hooks which could have yielded some fascinating developments had they been further examined (for example: we're told using magic sends the users insane; one of the things the player character is required to do on a regular basis is to use magic to achieve certain effects...).

Effects: There were some animated cut-scenes, and some reasonable voice acting, although the accent tended to wander around a bit (trying for English, occasionally drifting to northern USA). The voice actors at least did appear to be acting, rather than reciting things blankly off the page, so that was a nice change; also the CGI scenes didn't veer too far into the uncanny valley space.

Overall: It was interesting, but not that interesting, and the frustratingly opaque nature of the gameplay really did decrease my enjoyment of the game. Compared against other games of the genre, I'd give it three out of ten for gameplay, six out of ten for plot, and five out of ten for effects.

[1] You know the ones - "We may well do some unspecified thing at some unspecified time provided it doesn't annoy anyone too much".
[2] If you've ever played a hidden object game where the ruler or pencil you're supposed to find is disguised as part of a ceiling beam, you know sort of stuff I'm referrring to here.